The Toronto Maple Leafs: Demoted, Then Instantly Promoted

TORONTO, ON - MAY 22: Head coach Sheldon Keefe of the Toronto Maple Leafs seems pleased with a goal challenge denial against the Montreal Canadiens in Game Two of the First Round of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scotiabank Arena on May 22, 2021 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The Maple Leafs defeated the Canadiens 5-1. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - MAY 22: Head coach Sheldon Keefe of the Toronto Maple Leafs seems pleased with a goal challenge denial against the Montreal Canadiens in Game Two of the First Round of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scotiabank Arena on May 22, 2021 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The Maple Leafs defeated the Canadiens 5-1. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images) /
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The Toronto Maple Leafs will face off against one of their main rivals for “best team in the NHL” tonight in Colorado.

The Toronto Maple Leafs last played (what seems like) several months ago, beating the Oilers sometime in the recent past.

For the last two years, working from home and rarely going out, the hockey schedule was basically the only way I differentiated days.  So the downside is that while yesterday I didn’t even notice it was Friday and not Wednesday , but the upside is that with the Leafs only playing sporadically these days, every game seems like an event.

And unlike an Oilers game without McDavid, this is a game that will worth watching.

The Leafs are the NHL’s 3rd best team, and Colorado is the 5th best team (by points percentage) and so this will obviously be a highly entertaining game.

Toronto Maple Leafs vs Colorado Avalanche

Like a new Mountain Goats CD, the 2022 Leafs are a gift that keeps on giving – they’ve won something like 20 of their last 25 games, and are destroying pretty much anyone who gets in their path.

With Marner in the lineup recently, they’re 17-25, and unfortunately they won’t have their second best player in the lineup tonight due to Covid (Pierre Engvall and Ondrej Kase will also be absent).

The two scratches mean that the recently demoted Nick Ritchie, who cleared waivers, will be back in the lineup. Ironically, Ritchie was on the fourth line last game, and tonight he’s set to lineup beside Kampf and Spezza.

With three regulars out, the Leafs will be icing a very strange lineup that features Alex Kerfoot with Matthews on right wing, and both Brett Seney and Kyle Clifford in the lineup.

The Avalanche, on the other hand, will be looking to win their 11th straight home game (they’ve won eight of nine overall) and they’ll be doing it without Valeri Nichushkin and Jack Johnson (probably a positive, actually).

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Though the Avs lineup is pretty much at full strength and the Leafs are without Marner, the Leafs still have the advantage of knowing that they crushed them 8-3 last time they met, and because the Leafs are well rested and this will be Colorado’s fourth game in seven nights.

My prediction is that the Leafs will win and that Auston Matthews will score four times.  I always predict that, but I’m sure tonight is the night.